NHL Offseason

Who Sharks could look to as internal Meier replacement


The Sharks might lose their best defenseman in Erik Karlsson soon. They already lost their top forward in Timo Meier this season.

So how do the Sharks' forward corps move on without Meier next season? Let’s talk about some of the forwards who ended the season in San Jose. All SPORTLOGiQ stats are five-on-five.

First, there are the usual suspects to make up for Meier, the two established top-six forwards left in the Sharks' lineup.

Tomas Hertl

From 2018 to 2022, Hertl scored at a 32-goals-a-year pace. This season, he managed only 22 goals. So he is tops on any list to make up for Meier’s lost production.

There is one area where he will need some help. Meier was the Sharks’ top forward in terms of Offensive Zone Possession Time Per 20 at five-on-five. Hertl was second. Alexander Barabanov was next.

Barabanov is underrated, but he’s not the presence down low that Meier and Hertl are.

Logan Couture

Couture enjoyed his most productive season since 2018-19, putting up 67 points. The Sharks will need more of the same from the 33-year-old center next season.

The underrated playmaker led San Jose forwards in Slot Pass Completions. Anyway, Couture and Hertl are the obvious choices to take up Meier’s slack. Here are some of the less obvious names.

Alexander Barabanov

Barabanov had a career season, notching 47 points in just 68 games.

Meier was sixth in the NHL in OZ Dekes and ninth in Zone Entries. Closest to Meier on the Sharks? Barabanov was 62nd and 86th in the league in those respective categories.

He’s a far cry from Meier, but that’s the reality of today’s Sharks. The Russian winger also led the squad in Zone Exits, so he could be trusted to get the puck out of the zone.

Luke Kunin

Kunin scored just five goals in 31 contests in an injury-shortened season, but he had his share of chances in his first campaign in teal.

Meier was seventh in the NHL in Scoring Chances and third in Slot Shots. Closest to Meier on the Sharks was Kunin, who ranked 115th and 93rd in the league in those respective categories.

If Kunin can stay healthy next season, 20 goals aren’t out of the question.

Steven Lorentz

Lorentz was a solid fourth-line citizen in his Sharks debut, so much so that he did get a few looks in an elevated offensive role. He didn’t do much with it, but like Kunin, he had his share of opportunities.

Meier was fourth in the NHL in Inner Slot Shots and Lorentz was the closest Shark at just 127th.

Offense might not be his calling card, but Lorentz’s tenacity can’t be questioned. He led the Sharks in Puck Battle Wins rate, 20th in the NHL in that category.

Here are some other interesting stats for the rest of the Sharks' forward corps.

First, let’s look at some of the more promising youngsters, and how they did in small sample sizes this past season.

Thomas Bordeleau

At least at the NHL level, Bordeleau appeared to take a step back after an impressive cup-of-coffee debut in the 2021-22 season. In eight games, he had just two assists.

Last season, Bordeleau had five assists in eight appearances and was third on the Sharks in OZ Possession Time, second in Slot Pass Completions, second in Puck Battle Wins, and third in Offense-Generating Plays.

Per SPORTLOGiQ, offense-generating plays “Are made up of all plays that lead to scoring chances. In other words, they’re plays that move the puck into high-danger areas or situations, recovering pucks for your team, and putting high-quality shot attempts on net.”

This season, Bordeleau ranked 23rd on the Sharks in OZ Possession Time, 23rd in Slot Pass Completions, 25th in Puck Battle Wins, and 25th in Offense-Generating Plays.

He didn’t appear to be playing with a lot of confidence with the puck, but Bordeleau is just 21 and getting acclimated to playing wing too.

One area where he surprisingly led the Sharks? He was tops in Stick Checks. Once again, we’re talking about small sample sizes, but there are tools here that seemingly just need to come together.

William Eklund

On the other hand, while Eklund also wasn’t very productive in his end-of-the-season trial, notching just three points in eight appearances, his overall game clearly has grown.

He plays a more inside game now. Eklund was third on the Sharks in Inner Slot Shots, after ranking 29th in 2021-22. He was 13th in Slot Pass Completions this season and 24th in the previous year.

His 5-on-5 offensive game is more apparent. He was ninth on the team in Offense-Generating Plays, after ranking 29th the year before.

Despite his smaller frame, Eklund remains confident with the puck in the zone. He was fifth on the Sharks in OZ Possession Time this season, and fifth last year.

Jacob Peterson

Seemingly out of nowhere, Peterson, acquired at the trade deadline for fellow older prospect Scott Reedy, notched two goals and six assists in just 11 games.

Is that a sign of things to come?

The 23-year-old was fourth on the Sharks in Slot Pass Completions, behind Karlsson, Couture, and Hertl, and just ahead of Meier. That’s good company. If Peterson can continue to distribute the puck into the most dangerous scoring areas, he might prove to be a real diamond in the rough.

Here’s how the rest of the Sharks forwards break down.

Jonah Gadjovich

Gadjovich led the Sharks with 57 penalty minutes in just 35 games, filling a clear role on the squad.

Along with the fisticuffs, he gets inside and wins puck battles: He was seventh on the Sharks in Inner Slot Shots and ninth in Puck Battle Wins.

Noah Gregor

As he did last season, Gregor continues to pile up chances without much to show for it. He did have a career-high 10 goals and seven assists in just 57 games.

Aided by his team-best speed, Gregor was fifth on the Sharks in Scoring Chances, Slot Shots, Zone Entries, and Offense-Generating Plays. He wasn’t as exemplary in other micro-stat categories.

So Gregor is an offensive winger who doesn’t produce a lot of offense – but he’s also just 24, so there’s hope for him yet.

Kevin Labanc

When Labanc was on, he was on. From Nov. 3 to Jan. 10, after he was placed on Hertl and Meier’s line, Labanc had nine goals and 14 assists in 30 games.

But he also was a healthy scratch or demoted to the fourth line on multiple occasions this season.

Labanc is one of the handful of remaining Sharks who plays with a lot of confidence with the puck, he was fourth on the squad in OZ Possession Time.

Oskar Lindblom

While he played a responsible defensive game, Lindblom never got on track offensively, scoring just six goals and nine assists in 73 games.

The winger still is trying to regain his pre-cancer diagnosis form. From Oct. 2018 to Dec. 2019, Lindblom was above the 92nd percentile in the league in Deflections Per 20 at even strength.

He wasn’t close to that this season.

Nico Sturm

The free agent signing was as hard to play against as advertised in his Sharks debut, and the centerman added some surprising offense too, setting career highs with 14 goals and 26 points.

Sturm will look to keep adding to his toolbox next season.

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But this is the foundation of the big German’s game: He ranked fourth among Sharks regular forwards in Stick Checks (behind Mikey Eyssimont, Lorentz, and Hertl) and fourth in Puck Battle Wins (behind Lorentz, Hertl, and Couture).

Evgeny Svechnikov

The 2015 first-round pick still is trying to establish himself at the NHL level, but he managed to score a career-high eight goals in a mostly fourth-line role in just 59 games.

The 26-year-old winger profiles as a bottom-six forward who does a lot of things okay-to-well, but without a standout skill.

That’s supported by SPORTLOGiQ’s micro-stats, where Svechnikov doesn’t crack the team’s top 10 in over 20 different micro-stats, except for one. He was sixth among regular Sharks forwards in Zone Exits, suggesting, despite his lack of foot speed, a craftiness with the puck to get it out of the zone with possession.

Fabian Zetterlund

There’s no doubt that the Sharks were hoping for more after getting the young Swedish winger in the Timo Meier trade.

After a promising six goals and 14 assists in just 45 games with the New Jersey Devils in his rookie season, despite an increased role, the 23-year-old managed just three assists in 22 appearances in teal.

One area where Zetterlund can build off is Possession-Driving Plays. Per SPORTLOGiQ, possession-driving plays are defined as “transitioning the puck up the ice under control, meaning not tossing it up the boards and hoping to win it back.”

Devils stats included, Zetterlund was fourth among Sharks forwards in this category.

The winger was advertised as a fairly mature three-zone forward when the Sharks acquired him, this is an example of it.

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